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IPS leader calls teacher’s video of child’s beating at school ‘appalling and disturbing’

Indianapolis Public Schools to review policies after classroom fight

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools spoke out Wednesday about a teacher’s video showing one child beating up another who has sensory sensitivities, an executive function disorder, and possible learning disabilities.

In the teacher’s video, an adult believed to be the teacher can be heard encouraging the beating.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but the mother of the beaten second-grader in the video filed a civil lawsuit against the district on April 16. The mother is seeking damages.

In a post made Wednesday on the IPS YouTube page, Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said, “The video shared last week that was recorded by a former IPS teacher in his classroom at George Washington Carver School No. 87 is appalling and disturbing. I’ve spent these last days in numerous conversations listing to the concerns of IPS parents, including some from School 87, talking with members of my team and other staff, taking with the board of school commissioners and others to ensure we are taking the necessary and appropriate next steps.”

In the YouTube post, Johnson adds that the district will hire an “external partner” to look into the beating incident and also the climate at the George Washington Carver School No. 87.

The district also will review its protocols, procedures and relevant policies, she says.

The superintendent added that “this review will help to determine if there are additional actions that need to be defined and codified.

“To be more specific, we will further clarify our guidance for all staff, teachers and administrators regarding follow-up communication of incidents in schools, which is a place we fell short in this instance and have regrettably caused some families to question their trust in us.”

The superintendent’s YouTube post came after outcry from parents fearing for their children’s safety at IPS facilities.

Her YouTube post also followed a district statement issued last week that said, “Because this matter is the subject of pending litigation, it is inappropriate to comment further on our investigation of this matter.”

Johnson’s YouTube post also came a day after, she says, the IPS School Board called for convening a task force on “student safety and well-being” with an update to be shared publicly within 30 days.

A previous IPS statement, issued shortly before 6 p.m. April 19, said, in part:

• IPS was not aware of any fights encouraged or sanctioned by this or any other teacher from the student’s parents or otherwise, until the parent emailed the principal at 6:58 p.m. Oct. 30.

• The principal first viewed this email early morning the next day (Oct 31), and immediately contacted DCS and IPS Human Resources.

• The teacher was immediately removed from the building and never returned to the classroom.

• The teacher was interviewed by Human Resources on November 2 as part of its investigation into the matter. The employee resigned during that meeting before IPS could initiate termination proceedings, which the district was prepared to do based on the information received from the internal investigation.”

As News 8 first reported April 17, the mother’s attorneys, Catherine Michael and Tammy Meyer, say the child started second grade in the fall at George Washington Carver Montessori School No. 87.

The mother has since pulled her son out of the school and begun homeschooling him. According to the lawsuit, since the incident, the child has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeing a counselor at least once a week.

In November, during a parent-teacher conference, the lawyers say, the child’s teacher, Julious Johnican, was about to show the mother a video of the classroom environment and instead accidentally showed a video of another child beating up her son.

The lawyers subsequently obtained the video via the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Meyer has said the lawsuit ultimately is about seeking justice for the child.

“It’s horrific that this happened to him,” she told News 8 on April 17. “It’s horrific that it was caught on tape. It’s horrific that nobody has been prosecuted for it yet. Hopefully, by filing this lawsuit, we can get some sort of justice for the family.”

Previous reporting from News 8’s Garrett Bergquist contributed to this story.